This exam uses low-dose x-rays to make a picture of breast tissue. The picture is called a mammogram.

The United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommends that women aged 50-74 years old get a mammography every two years. Other organizations recommend screening every year starting at age 40. Women who are at high risk for breast cancer may need to have mammograms starting at an earlier age and more often. Most organizations in the United States and Canada recommend regular screening. There are some differences of opinion among these groups, such as when to start and how often to have the screenings. Talk to your doctor about what is best for you.

Possible Complications

Problems from the procedure are rare, but all procedures have some risk. If you are planning to have a mammogram, your doctor will review potential problems with you.

A mammogram does use radiation. You and your doctor will weigh the harms and benefits of this test. A mammogram may not be advised if you are pregnant. Be sure to discuss these risks with your doctor before the test.



This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.

Edits to original content made by Denver Health.

a (Breast X-ray; Mammogram; X-ray of Breast Tissue)


American Cancer Society 

American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists 


Breast Cancer Society of Canada 

Radiology for Patients 


Mammograms. National Cancer Institute website. Available at: Accessed July 26, 2013.

Mammography (breast imaging). Radiological Society of North America Radiology Info website. Available at: Accessed May 7, 2013. Accessed July 26, 2013.

Mammography for breast cancer screening. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: . Updated July 2, 2013. Accessed July 26, 2013.

8/12/2011 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillance : The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Practice bulletin no.122: Breast cancer screening. Obstet Gynecol. 2011;118(2 Pt 1):372-382. Reaffirmed 2014.